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The Cardiologist's Wife - Sunglasses! You Need Them!
Jun 13, 2019

Sunglasses make quite the fashion statement but they serve an important function beyond looking good and keeping the glare out of your eyes. Sunglasses were designed to protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, both UVA and UVB. The sun can do more than give your skin a sunburn, the sun can actually damage your eyes. The eyelid, lens and cornea work to filter UV rays but after many years, they can become damaged from prolonged exposure.

Just like the rest of your skin, you can develop skin cancers on your eyelids. When diagnosed early, eyelid cancers can be treated successfully but may require surgery, including reconstructive surgery. Untreated, eyelid cancers are dangerous. See your doctor if you have a bump that bleeds or does not heal, a persistent red eye or inflammation of the eyelid, dark new lesions with irregular borders or an unexplained loss of eyelashes.

Long term exposure to the sun can lead to cataracts, a clouding of the eye’s lens that causes blurry vision. Doctors estimate that 20% of cataracts are caused by sun exposure. When cataracts interfere with everyday activities, you will require surgery to repair the damage and restore normal vision.

UV rays, especially UVB rays, increase your risk for developing macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness as we age. Scientists don’t know the exact causes of macular degeneration but UV exposure speeds up the deterioration of the retina. There is no cure.

A long day at the beach or snow skiing without good sunglasses can lead to corneal sunburn or photokeratitis. Also known as snow blindness, corneal sunburn can be very painful and can cause vision changes or even temporary blindness. Symptoms include mild to severe pain, blurry vision, excessive tearing and bloodshot eyes. You should see an ophthalmologist or go to the emergency room as soon as possible for proper treatment if you suspect you have corneal sunburn.

Sunglasses can help in other ways. Bright sunlight can be a trigger for migraines. Even if you aren’t prone to migraines, sunglasses reduce eyestrain and fatigue. Sunglasses can improve your vision and help you to drive more safely. Those annoying little wrinkles at the corner of your eyes or crow’s feet are the result of too much time squinting in the sun - wearing sunglasses will keep them at bay.

Here’s what to look for when buying your next pair of sunglasses. First, make sure they block 100% of both UVA and UVB rays. Next, make sure they fit well as they won’t block the rays if they are too small or too large. Wrap around glasses protect the best but at least make sure they line up with your eyebrows and don’t sit too far down your nose. Polarized lens aren’t necessary but they will block more glare off the water or snow. Cheap glasses may be made of lesser quality materials but a high price tag doesn’t mean better protection. Read the label and do some research to find the best fit and protection for the money. You’re never too young for sunglasses so buy sunglasses for your kids and make them wear them. If they need sunscreen, they need sunglasses. Last, slap on a hat; it will protect your eyes too.

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